The Mysterious Success of Australian Sci-Fi Kids Shows

Growing up watching Australian TV shows and movies, we – that is, my generation and before, who were watching a surprising amount of Australian content – unintentionally developed a picture of Australia. A lot of water, beaches and the sea, unusual animals like kangaroos and alligators, sunshine, and great weather. Essentially, a lot of landscapes and positive vibes. As Men at Work said it themselves, it is “the land down under”.

When we start talking about Australian speculative fiction, we realize that it covers a broad genre of books, movies, tv shows, and other media. Once we take a look back at our childhood, we can realize how Australian TV shows that fall into the category of speculative fiction have actually been a part of growing up. Children from various places and generations were able to take a glimpse at Australian science fiction tv shows and form their own opinion and picture of Australia.

By looking at kids tv shows such as Ocean Girl, H2O: Just Add Water, Wicked Science and The Elephant Princess we can acknowledge how much of an impact Australian science fiction and fantasy shows have had around the globe over decades. Different generations were able to watch various approaches of sci-fi characters and touch upon individual topics and stories.

Ocean Girl and H2O: Just Add Water were able to convey similar plots and themes to different generations. Cleo, Emma, Ricki, and Bella are the protagonists of H2O: Just Add Water and Neri, Jason, and Brett of Ocean Girl. The idea of mermaids, underwater civilizations and have been an ongoing myth for centuries such as the island of Atlantis. According to the myth, the island was submerged into the Atlantic Ocean for eternity. Thus, people from all ages – young to old – were all intrigued about stories of the unknown of the ocean and eager to watch mystic creatures such as mermaids and mermen. These two TV shows were able to incorporate these interesting myths and motifs in tv shows for kids to watch and teach them about these centuries’ old legends. The beautiful landscapes and the ocean were a bonus to the nice plot.

Wicked Science on the other hand was able to touch upon the topic of science. It’s a story about regular teenagers who turn into geniuses. An experiment which results in an accident turns the two high-school students Toby and Elizabeth from regular teenagers to kids with scientific superpowers. Whether to use them for good or for bad is up to their own decision. Thus, the tv show teaches kids a valuable lesson to use whichever power they might have for good. Simultaneously, we can follow these school kids along with their everyday life such as friendship problems, family issues and first love encounters.

Lastly, The Elephant Princess is a fantasy tv show about an average teenager, Alex, who one day finds out that she is not the person she always thought she was. It turns out she is the long-lost heir to the throne of a fictional Indian kingdom called Manjipoor. Alex’s life turns upside down and the viewers get to watch whether Alex will be able to master her life between saving the kingdom of Manjipoor and her regular life back home in the Australian suburbs.

All these TV shows were able to draw the interest of children from various places and backgrounds. The key element was the mix of the successful depiction of science fiction and fantasy motifs which were connected to the Australian culture and landscape. Once incorporated and displayed this way, the success was almost inevitable – and generations of children knew of Australian speculative fiction before they’d even heard the term! 

Lucy Sussex, Sonia Lovecraft, and Women’s Voices in Literature

Literature is a key tool to connect people from all places with other cultures, stories, and histories. Thus, the popularity that American and English writers and stories have had in the last centuries has been undeniably successful in their sales numbers and their popularity worldwide, as well as their quickness of spreading their Anglophone literature around the globe. Therefore, on some level Australian literature has most definitely come a bit short in their representation of print media and both e-books.
Thus, Australian literature did not have the amount of presence in print media until a couple of decades ago. Due to the variety of different literature options such as podcasts, graphic novels, movies and TV shows Australian fiction has been able to spread quicker, particularly throughout the last years.

For some readers, a new story might be in their spectrum of interest but due to the lack of advertisement of Australian literature in media and bookstores, they might never stumble across them. Therefore, short stories are a great possibility to intrigue and draw in new readers and audiences to catch attention of Australian literature.

In a world which is dominated by English and American literature, Australian short stories are a great option for a different approach to the Anglophone literature world. The value of short stories should not be underestimated. Their importance should be acknowledged because they can help readers to get an insight into some topics that can be overseen at times. Examples of these are marginalized voices such as Indigenous, queer, and women narratives which have been drawing a lot of attention.

However, short stories should not be perceived as a transit to lengthier books etc. Short stories can capture just as important themes and motifs that readers are used to from novels for instance. Topics such as and content regarding the Indigenous people of Australia or horror stories with traditional myths and legends can be intriguing for some readers.

There is a wide range of different topics to choose from because if there is one thing that is great about Australian literature and short stories; it is the variety and representation of different groups of people.

Today, I would like to introduce you to a notable Australian author, whose short story is definitely worth taking a look at. The summary and brief introductions will not include spoilers – because to be honest, who likes spoilers anyways? The story will be so much more enjoyable to read first-hand instead of reading about them.

The short story is called “Wife to Mr Lovecraft” and was written by New Zealand-born author Lucy Sussex. Her work has specifically been associated with feminist science fiction, the history of women’s writing and Australian.

As the title of the short story indicates, Sussex wrote a tribute story about H.P. Lovecraft’s wife Sonia Lovecraft. In April 2021, she published a tweet, where she states, ”I had the good fun of writing a Lovecraft tribute story in postcards from Sonia Lovecraft. She was quite a personality.” Although the story was about Lovecraft’s ex-wife Sonia Greene, the postcards and the story take place after their split and during her marriage to Dr. Nathaniel Abraham Davis. The short story also refers to the promise H.P. Lovecraft gave to his wife Sonia regarding their divorce. Due to circumstances and a form that had not been signed by Lovecraft, the marriage was never legally annulled. The story gives the reader a chance to touch upon a perspective, which has formerly only been given to Lovecraft himself.

Now, it is time for Sonia to share her thoughts and feelings – even if only in fiction.

Sussex’s short story gives an interesting, fictional insight to H.P. Lovecraft and his ex-wife Sonia’s postcard exchange. It is an interesting and beautiful diffusion between an Australia-based author, who touches upon the story of one of the most renowned American authors of history and his successful, businesswoman and writer (ex-)wife, Sonia Greene.

Jewish-Australianness and Gillian Polack’s ‘Melusine’

Gillian Polack is an important Australian writer and Medievalist who was born and raised in Melbourne. Her heritage and religion have had a great influence on her writing, but not only that – her Jewish-Australianness shows us the importance of representation and diversity in print media.

Polack shows in her writing and in her interviews that the strength and empowerment that came from her Jewish-Australianness should not be underestimated. It shows that bicultural identities should be valued and supported in order to underline the beauty of it. Being part of one culture does not eradicate or diminish the other part of a person and even showcases that a person is not half of anything. They are a whole entity, an entire and complete person that is part of more than one culture and religion. Jewishness does not disregard one’s Australianness, neither does one’s Australianness disregard their Jewishness. On the contrary, transcultural identities enrich the amount of perspectives that come into play and show the diversity of society and represents the state of the world. This is emphasised ever so effortlessly by Polack, for instance in her novel The Time of the Ghosts.

Her protagonist is a fairy named ‘Melusine’, also referred to as Lil (presumably short for Lilith) at times – Melusine’s background derives from the European folklore figure and is described as half woman and half serpent or fish. In The Time of the Ghosts, however, ‘Melusine’ is depicted as a Jewish fairy. This fascinating occurrence of both Melusine’s having more than one identity comes as no surprise once we remind ourselves of Polack’s expertise in Medieval studies. Her writing strikes the audience’s interest especially when you bear in mind that there is a personal nuance and influence on it as well. You can approach this perspective from a biographical point of view by taking Polack’s medievalist background into account and take a closer look at ‘Melusine’, the folklore figure and Polack’s character ‘Melusine’ – the first one is a woman who must hide her true identity as a female spirit of fresh water from her husband and her surrounding and the other one as a fairy who has to hide her Jewish identity as well as her fairy-being in order to protect and shield herself at times.

This depiction in Polack’s The Time of the Ghosts indicates that all the different cultures that a person consists of make them who they are. ‘Melusine’ serves as a great metaphor in this sense and helps people to understand the struggles of growing up in multiple and mixed cultures. The beauty and enrichment it can bring to you once you learn about your cultures and beliefs by getting in contact with them is an important aspect in staying in touch with your culture and familiarising yourself. Learning your language or also trying to connect to your cultures’ cuisines are tools to stay in contact with your heritage, as Polack herself has done through cooking with her Jewish grandmother and trying to learn Yiddish and Hebrew.